Diamond Jubilee at Romance at Random

"The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." Albert Einstein




Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Favorite Color Is Purple


A few months ago a writer friend of mine told me that she thought she might be ruined forever to reading because of her writing. I thought I understood what she meant, but I don’t think I really did at the time. Now I do.

We, as writers, can get so bogged down with style and craft issues that the actual power of our words can be forgotten. I’m not saying toss every rule aside, but I am saying don’t lose the passion of the words just to fit inside a stylistic box. It’s great to have guidelines – not hard and fast rules. Writing is still an art, first and foremost. If you never practice with words considered purple, how can you ever learn to use them well?

I came across this passage last week, and it struck me for two reasons: The first is that the power of the words gave me chills. The second is that if this had gone to an editor in today’s publishing world, it would have most likely been edited out in the first round.

Do yourself a favor and read this passage out loud:


The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the seagulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?


The first sentence would not only be criticized as too long but would be labeled as “purple.” And dear God, the POV police would lock the author in prison and throw away the key for the last two sentences. When I read this out loud, I get tears in my eyes. I don’t have to know why they are on a beach or what the GMC is. I don’t care that the second independent clause is passive voice or that the author broke out of third-person past to address the reader directly. I only have to close my eyes to see the beach, smell the briny sea, hear the lonely cry of the seagulls, and the waves washing up on the shore because I am right there with them.

In some ways I, too, am ruined to reading and in other ways my eyes are just opened to it. I don't want to get so ingrained in the mechanics of my writing that I miss the opportunity for something great – something that will give my readers chills or bring tears to their eyes. This is, after all, why I write.

This passage is from CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. If you have not read it, I recommend it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lisa's Six Sentence Sunday

Welcome to another Six Sentence Sunday! The six this week is from my upcoming release, Through the Rabbit Hole, from Astraea Press.

Here's a little background info. When Natalie tumbled through a dimensional tear, she fell into a fey lord's lap. To her bewilderment, here's what the initial conversation sounded like:


“You’re human, little bird.”

Her eyebrows drew together. She’d been expecting a threat or demand, not an observation. Just who and what was he?

He smiled, the grin creeping across his face like a ray of light. “We have legends about round-eared humans.”


Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for stopping by!

Drop by http://sixsunday.blogspot.com/ to see more great entries.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The First Round--of Edits, That Is

No, I wasn't talking about the first round of alcohol, though we may have a virtual round later. What I'm referring to is first round edits.

Last night, I received mine for Through the Rabbit Hole and am happy to say they're aren't as scary as I thought they might be. Sure, I have to fix an odd turn of phrase occasionally and add or subtract a word or comma every few pages. But these are all easy fixes that make my heart jump for joy. No major overhauls required--phew!

I know, who likes to see their manuscript (MS) marked up in red? Probably no one, but as long as the suggestions/revisions are on the mark, they serve the author well. And my edits from Astraea Press were right on, down to the last dot. For those of you familiar with critiques, edits aren't that much different. In fact, I think if your MS has been through serious critiquing, the edits will be a lot less painful.

What I love about Astraea is if I don't agree with an edit, I'm encouraged to give my reason(s) why. Now, I don't think I will need to do this, because I agree with all the edits thus far. But isn't it nice to know that as authors, we still have quite a bit of input over our work?

Now how about that cyber round?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kary's Six Sentence Sunday

Happy Six Sentence Sunday from Kary.

This is an excerpt from my current work in progress, The Implanting, an epic fantasy romance. Abby has just returned home from a month long journey. Shortly after her arrival, she overhears a conversation in which Petra, her best friend and confidant, declares he’s in love with her. The revelation surprises her, but not as much as the feelings it stirs in her own heart.

Taking her in his arms, his face descended to hers. He hesitated, and when she didn’t pull away, made full contact with her lips. His mouth moved insistently, like a gentle wind against the new growth of barley. The mint and lemongrass scent of his skin infused her senses, and his arms around her waist conveyed security but not confinement.
Her mind scattered like apple blossoms in the breeze. Was this why she’d come?

Hope you enjoyed and thanks for stopping by.

You can find more great entries by going to the Six Sentence Sunday blog site at http://sixsunday.blogspot.com/.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Great Beginnings

Recently I attended a workshop with Anna DeStefano, best selling, Romantic Times award-winning author. Her session called Plotting through Character Development showed her personal technique for plotting her story by first developing character growth. With Lisa’s recent post on creating memorable characters this seemed a good topic to continue discussing. To any story, but especially in the romance genre, characters are key.

Here is an excerpt from the session:

Where your characters come from is half the battle – Add punch to the character’s present by motivation from the past.
As authors we know story pacing thrives on the here and now, but much of the characters motivation is anchored in the past. Just because the reader never sees all the details of the character’s back story doesn’t let you as the author off the hook. You must know where your characters come from in order to predict where they will go and make it believable.

Characters are built. They don’t just happen – Your characters are reborn each time you learn more about what they need
The focus of each scene from the character’s perspective is change. Each scene should bring about a change that moves them towards their turning point. If you know what your characters need to reach their crisis then you can turn up the heat with plot elements and torture them.

Work hard for those surprises – Revisions are good for spontaneity
Bang out the first draft then go back for intuitive spontaneous character revisions. Interesting, fully rounded characters rarely emerge in the first draft. Character depth usually takes a trip or two back to conquer.

• Commit to the process of understanding your characters better.
• Know your own patterns and weaknesses and put them to use in your characters
• Play to your strengths where your writing gift will thrive but remember change is good. Stretch a little with each new project by picking a character you’ve never explored.
• Dare to go in a different direction in your character’s growth.

I found this session personally helpful because without realizing it, character development is how I plotted my first book. By using these suggestions to fill in the gaps of my own lack of knowledge, my next project will go so much more smoothly.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

Hi, Lisa here! This is my first week participating in Six Sentence Sunday. The lines I'm sharing are from my short fantasy romance Captive, which is epublished with Books to Go Now. In the story Emma has just been kidnapped by the seductive Cian. The poor girl didn't even know about the existence of other dimensions -- or elves -- until she caught the eye of the handsome Elvin male. Now she's scared of but seriously tempted by the foreign Cian.

Now on to the juicy part!


When he discovered the curve of her cheek next, she closed her eyes. The scent of pine and sandalwood tickled her nose, and her senses flared to life. Pin pricks shivered over her skin. Time and perception coalesced, as if she’d been born just to experience this moment.

The heat of his lips took up the path his fingers had left. “W…what are you doing?”


Hope you enjoyed!

For more entries by talented Six Sentence Sunday authors or even to join in on the fun yourself next week, check out the site of Six Sentence Sunday.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Through the Rabbit Hole Cover Art

I'm excited to have the cover art for Through the Rabbit Hole, which will be coming out from Astraea Press! The cover artist is the talented Elaina Lee. Without further ado, here's the cover!





The Writing Tree

While driving, I often think of writing-related matters. For some reason last week, I thought of how climbing a tree -- or even the tree itself -- is like writing a book. In the winter trees are bare, branches sticking out like spindly arms without any leaves to clothe them. But I reasoned, are these limbs like the structure we hang our stories on?

But how is writing a novel like climbing a tree -- or the tree itself? Well, a tree grows, as we all know. From a sapling, it starts out fresh and green. As the tree matures, it becomes stronger. Once the tree has developed enough stability to withstand our weight, we can begin the upward climb. Many people don’t make it past the first few limbs, or even the first one, and give up in defeat. For those who persevere, the first few branches might not seem to be that high from the ground. We can climb these sturdy limbs with minimal effort.

But once we go higher, our comfort level drops, and the branches become more delicate. We have to constantly watch for missteps, testing each limb to see if it will hold the weight of our story ideas. One branch may look perfect, but once we’re on it, we can see it’s not the place for us. The limb may be too shaky, or not close enough to other branches to allow easy movement. So we search out another branch that will take us toward our goal--of climbing the tree to the top and back down. Along the way, we have to jump from limb to limb as our plot-points change, sometimes going up a branch, sometimes down two.

Depending on the person and story involved, climbing can be very easy or extremely hard. And just like a cat that gets stuck in the top branches, we can shoot to the top on an idea, only to realize there’s no way to get back down.

Plot twists, conflict, characters -- they can all lead us astray, leaving us stranded in the tree we’ve built for our story. Sometimes, we can gingerly retrace our steps down. Other times, we need to be recused -- whether by a critique partner or by time and objectivity. But with enough patience, we will make it to the top and back down -- in one piece.

Writing is all about the journey. From the inciting incident at the bottom to the conflict at the top, and then back down again. Apparently writing is like a tree -- and climbing that said tree -- to me. What is writing to you?




Saturday, March 5, 2011

Signed with Astraea Press

This week I signed on with Astraea Press as a new author. This is a very exciting time for me. So far I've filled out an author form, giving various details about myself, and a cover art worksheet detailing how I envision the cover. Astraea Press has beautiful covers done by the talented Elaina Lee. Take a look: http://astraeapress.com/

Now I've begun pre-edits, reading for certain words that weaken the story. Wow, I thought I had ripped out alot of them already, but quite a few slipped past me! I'm being as diligent as I can to remove the rest, so hopefully Stephanie, my editor, won't be able to point out too many instances.

Well, that's my quick update!

Friday, March 4, 2011

What's in a Character? Part Two

Welcome the second part of my character recipe. Last time we discussed how dialogue, actions, and thoughts contribute to a well-rounded and fully-developed character. This last part consists of character emotions, which is something I believe is overlooked too often in the hustle and bustle of writing.

Emotions
Emotions are often reflected through dialogue, thoughts, and actions. Think of it as an underlying base, one that’s often missing. Writers can nail dialogue, action, and even thoughts, but forget to weave in emotion. Without it, a scene falls flat because we have no emotional connection with the characters. In romance that’s a death blow. I think most understand how to use emotion through dialogue. When combining it with thoughts and action, however, it requires a delicate balance.

For instance, take the example:

She was so mad at her cheating boyfriend that she wanted to kick in him in the groin. If he tried to see her, that’s what she would do. Now that she had a plan, she smiled as she sat in the dark.

Pretty flat, right?

Though not perfect, here is an example where I tied emotion to the spurned woman’s thoughts and actions:

Samantha sat in the darkening living room, hunched over on the sofa. Though she could barely see anything, she didn’t bother to turn on the lamp. What did light matter to her, anyhow? Darkness suited her better -- all because of him. Her hands clenched as her heart threatened to explode. The image of her boyfriend wrapped in the arms of another woman infiltrated her mind.

A bitter laugh escaped her lips. How could she have believed that Jackson and Kayla were merely friends? The answer was easy. She’d seen what she’d wanted to see. Straightening her shoulders, she devised her next move. If he dared show his face here, she’d whoop his butt. A kick to the groin should do it. A devious grin spread over her lips. Oh yes, if he was stupid enough to come around, he’d regret it.

How do you develop characters and make them unique? Well, that’s the end of my two part series. Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's in a Character? Part One

Developing a well-rounded character can be a challenge. Though I’m no expert, this is what I’ve noticed is needed for a recipe of good characterization: dialogue, actions, thoughts, and emotions.

While I’m separating these four factors into their own category, each is intertied and can’t, or at least, shouldn’t exist without the others. Originally I was going to post this article as one entry, but it became too long and unwieldy. So I’m separating it into two parts:

Part 1 -- dialogue, actions, thoughts

Part 2 -- emotions

Now on to the first part!


Dialogue

Dialogue helps define your characters’ personality. How they talk clues us in to a lot of details -- a general location of where they may have grown up, how educated they may be, what they’re feeling, and so on.

Each character should have a distinct talking pattern. As we all know, a person growing up in Ireland sounds different than a person who was raised in the States. Even within one country, though, there are so many different dialects associated with geography and socio-economics.

Actions

I’m not talking about fight scenes. Any movement or action that places our character in the world outside her mind is enough to fulfill the criteria. We need action in our stories to ground the character in her surroundings.

Otherwise, every scene might as well just take place in a giant white room. Setting the mood and tone with the character’s surroundings is a beneficial tool in characterization. I go more into this below in the Thoughts section, so read on!

Thoughts

Thoughts are a front seat to the character, as they illuminate emotions and what the character plans to do next. The downfall with thoughts, though, is when a writer stays too long in a character’s mind without letting the reader see the fictional outside world.

To avoid this, we need to add in some kind of movement or action. Have the character notice and interact with his surroundings in a way that reflects his mood. If he’s happy, he might notice and admire the bright sky while walking outside. If angry, the same bright sky may annoy the heck out of him. Or you may choose to echo his mood with black clouds roiling overhead. Also, if the character isn’t alone, have him strike up dialogue.

Do you have any ‘favorite tricks of the trade when it comes to weaving in dialogue, actions, or thoughts to character development? If so, share them here!

Please join us for the next part, which I will have up sometime later this week.